Making Cents: Hold the phone, new rules for service contracts

Making Cents: Hold the phone, new rules for service contracts
Picture: iStock

The introduction of new regulations around the sale of gift cards garnered plenty of attention when they came into force ahead of the festive spending period. But another set of rules, which came into force in Ireland last week, are also aimed at making life easier for shoppers.

Consumers across the EU are set to benefit from new rules on phone and internet contracts.

Under these rules, which came into effect as of December 21, providers of telephone, messaging or internet services must present all potential customers with a contract summary, which will include clear and simple information about their contracts before they are concluded.

“With many different service providers available across the EU, it can often be hard for consumers to choose which provider can best meet their needs,” Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, explained.

The new contract summary will offer clear and comparable information about each service and contract, making it easier for them to make informed choices.

“Another step in helping Europeans enjoy all the opportunities of the internal market.” So what differences can shoppers expect to see when they go shopping for a new phone or internet deal?

The regulations establish a template for the contract summary that services operators should provide to consumers.

The summary will include the main conditions of the contract, such as information on price, services, and internet speed.

The idea is to provide “a concise and easily readable presentation of the main information that service providers are required to provide to consumers, such as provider’s contact details, description of the service, speeds of the internet service, price, duration, renewal and termination of the contract and features for end-users with disabilities”.

The contract summary is a standardised one page sheet (for one service) or up to three pages (for a bundle), so it should help consumers who want to properly understand what they are signing up for without having to read reams of terms and conditions. It won’t contain every detail of the terms of the contract, just the main points.

“The purpose of the contract summary is to enable consumers to make well-informed choices,” the Commission explains on its website. “It does not include all terms and conditions of a specific contract. It does not mention all rights and obligations of the parties.

For example, the consumer may have the right to terminate the contract for reasons other than the ones mentioned in the summary, such as in the event that the service provided is not in conformity with the contract.

One particular aim of the new regulations is to make comparisons easier for shoppers.

“The contract summary aims to help providers to better present information about the main elements of the contract, so that consumers can better compare different offers for communications services prior to the conclusion of a contract,” the Commission explains. “Comparison will become easier as all providers will inform consumers about the same main elements of the contract in a uniform manner.”

Providers must make the summary available in the same way as it would the contract itself and all terms and conditions, ie it can be made available online or on paper in a shop.

Under the new rules the contract will become effective when the consumer has confirmed his or her agreement after reception of the contract summary but the summary does not need to be separately signed by the consumer.

The Commission also confirmed that the new rules are not just for bill pay customers, the contract summary is to be provided for both post-paid and pre-paid offers. While the regulations do not impact large companies, the contract summary is also to be provided to microenterprises, small enterprises, and not-for-profit organisations.

Deal of the Week

After a new phone and want one that is kind to the planet? Vodafone Ireland has joined forces with Fairtrade smartphone company, Fairphone, to launch the first sustainable smartphone in the Irish market.

The ethical, reliable and sustainable handset is manufactured from responsibly sourced, conflict-free tin and tungsten, recycled copper and plastics, and gold sourced by Fairtrade.

It is also designed to last rather than be quickly replaced with a newer model.

The Fairphone 3 is a modular phone that enables the owner to replace seven individual components of the phone when in need of repair, such a new display, battery or speaker, or to upgrade it with the latest camera as new technologies are developed.

In addition, the device is made using 40% recycled plastics and comes in reusable packaging.

The phone, which works on Android OS, includes 64 GB of memory expandable up to 256 GB with a MicroSD card is available in-store and online, and is available on Pay As You Go from €429 and Bill Pay from free.

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